Shark drones coming to a beach near you

UNMANNED aerial drones equipped with sensors to spot sharks could soon be coming to a beach near you.

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney said trials of a number of drones are under way and predicts they could be flying off beaches by next season.

"There's a lot of different ones out there and they're being trialled all the time," Mr McCartney said.

"You have to work out if they can do what they say they can do in all the different wind and weather situations you can get."

He said the interest locally in the drones was not as strong as other areas, but eventually he would follow guidelines from Lifesaving NSW.

"We're not doing it so much here, but I know in other areas they're really moving ahead with it," he said. "We're guided by Lifesaving NSW. If they say we've got to use them, then that's what we'll do."

Mr McCartney said there could be plenty of fun learning to fly the unmanned craft from the beach.

"I can see there would be plenty of people who would love that side of it, piloting a drone flying out the back of the surf," he said.

"Personally, after 15 years or so of lifesaving and life guarding, nothing beats being able to get out there yourself to see what's happening.

One of the drone companies pitching its product, Little Ripper Lifesaver, has included shark deterrence and extra lifesaving equipment on the drone they are testing.

The company has partnered with Shark Shield, which claims to be an effective electronic shark deterrent, to provide both shark spotting and attack prevention capabilities.

Company founder Kevin Weldon said the military grade, battery-powered drones were undergoing tests on Australia's top beaches.

"This is an essential tool of the future for shark spotting as well as locating lost and distressed swimmers and sailors," he said.

"The plan is to develop the technology in such a way that drops lifesaving gear to distressed people in the ocean environment. The S.O.S. Marine Pod will automatically inflate when it hits the water and deploy the electronic Shark Shield deterrent, along with a distress beacon."

With two recent fatal shark attacks in Western Australia and an increase in shark attacks in Northern NSW, Mr McCartney said these developments had to be taken seriously.

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